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VMware Hands On Labs–BETA–Live!

November 14, 2012 Leave a comment

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For a number of years, VMware has provided some amazing lab contents during the VMworld conferences. From year to year, the labs progressed from onsite delivered, to cloud bursting, to majority cloud, and, finally, to completely cloud provided. It was inevitable that one day… some day… the labs would be opened up to the general populace. So, it turns out that Tuesday, November 13th was that fateful day. At the Portland VMUG Conference, Mr. Pablo Roesch (@heyitspablo) and Mr. Andrew Hald (@vmwarehol) released the Hands On Labs (BETA) onto the world!

Pablo and Andrew were kind enough to help me get access just before the announcement. And, I must say, I have been so impressed with what VMware has produced.

It is important to remember that this is a BETA offering (not quite like a Google BETA (ex: Gmail)), so experiencing some bugs and bumps in the road should be expected. However, with that being said, the quality of the content, delivery mechanisms, and the UI are top notch.

UI Tour

Lets take a quick look at what the environment looks like:

Login

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Upon logging into the HOL environment, you are greeted with a couple notable components:

  • Enrollments and Lab Navigation
    • This section, on the left, allows you to view the labs you have enrolled for, filter the lab types (currently Cloud Infrastructure, Cloud Operations, and End-User Computing), and viewing your transcript.
  • Standalone labs
    • The actual entry to the lab content. Enroll, begin, continue, etc… from here. This is where the magic happens.
  • Announcements
    • Includes important updates as to new lab content, product YouTube videos, Twitter stream, etc…

    All in all, the home page is very streamlined and efficient.

    Using a Lab

    Upon enrolling and beginning a lab, you are presented with:

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In the background, vCloud Director is deploying your lab environment. Looks like VMware is truly eating its own dog food with this product. No more Lab Manager for this type of offering anymore.

The interface features some very well thought out design decisions that helps present the lab content, and VMs, in a very logical and convenient way. The HOL team heavily leveraged HTML5 to accomplish the magic:

Default View Lab Manual Consoles
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The simple placement of tabs on the left and right sides allows for the console of the VM to consume the majority of the screen while minimizing the amount of times the user needs to switch between applications for information. All of the info is there. Plus, as the user scrolls down the screen, the tabs remain visible, always ready to be used.

Use the lab manual content to navigate through the labs at your leisure. Note, though, there is a time limit. This is shared infrastructure. So, if you are idle for too long, HOL Online will time you out and close up shop so others can use the same infrastructure. Don’t worry, though, the content will resume when you return later.

Bugs I Have Found

Yes… as mentioned above, this is a BETA. Did I mention this is a BETA, because it is a BETA. So, running into some bugs is expected. Don’t worry, though, I’ll participate in the forum to report them.

Thus far, I have found a couple funky bugs:

  • The mouse can disappear when a console is open
  • The mouse can disappear when multiple browsers are open and the HOL window is not active
  • Some lab manuals are not available
  • Occasionally, the HOL interface will hang at Checking Status. Force a cache refresh in your browser.

Getting Involved

If you want to get involved in testing the functionality and getting a taste of what the HOL Online is all about:

– Acknowledge that this is a BETA at this time. Don’t expect complete perfection right now.
– Sign up for the BETA at http://hol.vmware.com
– Notice that the signup site is a forum. You can check out the bugs and commentary from other beta testers to get a feel for what you’re going to experience
– Commit to participating in the beta community. Pablo and Andrew are not going to come to your house and take your vSphere licenses away for not participating. But, this is a unique opportunity to contribute to the success of a public product like this. Take advantage of it. Help the VMware community by contributing to it!

Well done, HOL team. I look forward to seeing what this turns into in the future!